Half of University Students Underestimate Costs of Education

    Also unprepared for day-to-day expenses associated with university life

    TORONTO, Sept. 7 /CNW/ - The cost of a university education is
skyrocketing past students' estimates and pushing them into debt that will
delay them from future milestones, such as purchasing their first home.
    According to a study conducted by BMO Bank of Montreal, more than half of
students polled underestimated the cost of going to university by as much as
34 per cent, while almost half admit to having run out of funds. Moreover,
while students acknowledged they could be faced with debt after university,
many of them admitted they are not taking pre-emptive steps such as getting
advice from their parents or a financial expert.
    Most students said it will take them an average of five years to repay
their student debts and acknowledge they will be forced to delay purchasing a
home or initiate savings and investments. Almost 20 per cent of those who go
to school in their hometown say they will have to continue living with their
parents in order to pay off their debt, while nine per cent of those who go
away to school say they will be forced to move back in with their parents.
    "Students accept that debt will be a way of life after university, but
more than half of the high school graduates we polled said they haven't done a
budget for their first year," said Sid Chopra, Director, BMO Bank of Montreal.
"It is crucial students develop strong financial planning skills early so they
can minimize the burden longer term."
    According to recent data, the average cost of a university education for
those studying away from home can run up to $11,000 per year.(1) However,
53 per cent of current university students polled said they had budgeted only
$9,000 or less for their previous year of studies.
    The study reveals students are unprepared for the numerous day-to-day
expenses associated with university life, such as fees, entertainment,
groceries, transportation and health care.
    "While many parents advise their children to seek expert financial advice
after graduation and when they begin their careers, most fail to recognize the
value of seeing a financial advisor to get help budgeting for education
expenses," said Mr. Chopra. "BMO has financial experts who can help students
understand how to establish a realistic budget and manage day-to-day
    Mr. Chopra said banks, transportation providers and other retailers all
vie for student customers and will offer suitable discounts to attract their
business. "Be smart about where you spend your money and how you spend your
money," said Mr. Chopra. "Student discounts can help you significantly lower
the day to day cost of going to school."
    BMO recently introduced the BMO SPC Mosaik MasterCard to help students
maximize their use of discounts and savings on clothes, food, entertainment,
travel and other services at more than 110 merchants in 10,000 locations
across Canada. In addition, the new card can help students establish a strong
credit rating, which will be crucial to receiving approval on car loans,
business loans and mortgages after graduation.

    (1) The cost of a university education will vary based on provincial
        subsidies, university tuition fees, and regional cost of living


    Tips for university budgeting

    -   Develop a realistic budget that includes textbooks, supplies,
        computers (software and Internet), transportation, general living and
        social expenses.

    -   Expect the unexpected and be prepared. From extra costs for books to
        a flat tire or an unplanned trip home to see the family, unexpected
        expenses do arise and students should have a financial contingency

    -   Take advantage of student discounts, as every cent counts. Many
        stores and transportation networks offer discounts so don't be afraid
        to ask. BMO Bank of Montreal is one of the only banks to offer free
        banking for students so shop around before opening an account or
        asking for a loan.

    -   Pay as you go - If you can, pay for your education as you go. Many
        students enter college or university without having a sound plan to
        fund their education: Consider using savings from a summer or
        part-time job throughout the year to help you pay as you go.

    -   Know your financing options - If you do not qualify for government
        assistance and/or do not have enough savings from a summer job, most
        financial institutions can provide financial help with a loan or a
        line of credit.

    -   Think both short and long term - By having two different bank
        accounts, students can manage their short and long-term financial
        needs separately. A day-to-day chequing account is perfect for daily
        and weekly needs, while a savings account is a good place to park
        money needed later in the year.

    -   Regularly re-evaluate your financial needs - As you go through
        college or university, the financial assistance you require often
        changes. Scheduling regular appointments with your banking
        professional is one way to maintain healthy finances and allows you
        to make any necessary financial adjustments.

    -   Pay interest only on the funds you use - Student Lines of Credit
        differ from traditional loans because once approved, you take out
        only what you need, when you need it, as many times as you want (up
        to your credit limit). Also, they are open for repayment at any time
        without penalty.

    -   Stretch the dollars you do spend - Look for ways to turn your
        spending into savings. Loyalty features such as BMO's AIR MILES
        reward miles can help defray the cost of future purchases for travel,
        entertainment or merchandise and more. Students can also earn rewards
        through a student line of credit and recently announced BMO SPC
        Mosaik MasterCard.

        If you're a collector but prefer to save with cash, consider credit
        card programs, such as BMO Mosaik MasterCard's CashBack feature,
        which give you cash back for the rewards you collect.

    Regional Survey Findings

    -   Current and prospective Quebec university students have a much lower
        estimate of the cost of education with 51 per cent predicting the
        cost of their first or next year of schooling to be under $7,000,
        much higher than the national percentage of 32 per cent

    -   Students in Atlantic Canada were much more likely to overestimate the
        cost of their university education with 13 per cent budgeting more
        than $15,000 for their next year and 26 per cent budgeting $10-15,000

    -   More Ontario students said they were budgeting within the proper cost
        range of $10-15,000 than any other region, but overall Ontarians
        budget the lowest when compared with the nationally predicted budget
        of $9,300

    -   Students in the Prairies were twice more likely to possess a credit
        card in their first year of university than students in Atlantic
        Canada, where the credit card possession rate stood at 29 per cent

    -   Atlantic Canadian students had the highest estimate of post-graduate
        debt with 37 per cent of respondents predicting they will be more
        than $30,000 in the red. Conversely, only five per cent of Quebecers
        estimated their debt to fall into the same category

    -   British Columbians and Atlantic Canadians were most likely to say the
        rising cost of tuition is forcing them to reconsider enrolling in
        university, while Quebecers were the least likely to say so

    -   British Columbians were the most likely to get financial planning
        advice from the Internet while Quebecers were most likely to seek out
        advice from a financial institution

    The study was conducted by TNS Canadian Facts from August 14-19 and
polled 1,017 students across Canada. All data was weighted by age, gender and
region to achieve a true representation of 18- to 24-year-olds in Canada. A
copy of the full survey is available upon request.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contacts: Paul Gammal, Toronto,
paul.gammal@bmo.com, (416) 867-6543; Lucie Gosselin, Montreal,
lucie.gosselin@bmo.com, (514) 877-8224; Ronald Monet, Montreal,
ronald.monet@bmo.com, (514) 877-1873; Laurie Grant, Vancouver,
laurie.grant@bmo.com, (604) 318-0735

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